The Pro Football Hall of Fame released the 122 modern-era nominees eligible for induction Wednesday, 10 of whom are first timers on the ballot. Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin and DeMarcus Ware highlight the impressive group, with Devin Hester and Steve Smith also appearing on the ballot for the first time.
Johnson led the league in receptions and receiving yards twice, also leading the NFL in yards per game three times. He finished his 14-year career with 1,062 catches for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns -- earning seven Pro Bowl selections and first-team All-Pro honors twice. Johnson is 11th all-time in receptions and receiving yards and owns every major franchise receiving record for the Houston Texans. If Johnson is inducted to the Hall of Fame, he'll be the Texans' first Hall of Fame selection.
Boldin, a seven-time 1,000-yard receiver and three-time Pro Bowl selection, caught 1,076 passes for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns in 14 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions. He was a key contributor on the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII championship team and led the NFL in receiving yards per game in 2005 (among players with at least 50 catches) despite playing alongside future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin also was the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2003, racking up 1,377 yards on 101 catches -- the latter of which are the most ever by a rookie.
Ware was one of the top pass rushers of his era, finishing his standout career with 138.5 sacks in 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos -- good for ninth on the all-time list. Ware led the NFL in sacks twice, was a first-team All-Pro selection four times and made the Pro Bowl nine times. He's the Cowboys all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles, tackles for loss and quarterback hits. An all-decade selection in the 2000s, Ware won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos.
Hester's 20 combined special teams return touchdowns are an NFL record, while his 19 combined kickoff and punt return touchdowns are also the most in league history. He holds 11 NFL records, including the most punt returns for touchdowns in a season (four) and most return touchdowns in a season (six) -- both accomplished in 2007. Hester recorded 11 return touchdowns in his first two seasons, the most in a two-year span in league history. A two-time all-decade selection, Hester earned four Pro Bowl selections and was a first-team All-Pro three times -- all on special teams.
Other first-time nominees on the 122-player list include offensive linemen Jake Long and Nick Mangold; defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Vince Wilfork; and defensive back Antonio Cromartie. The list of modern-era nominees will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and 15 finalists in January.